The Freshman Inquiry Writing Seminars (FIQWS) were created in order to provide entering freshmen with a unique and exciting learning environment in their first semester at CCNY, and to involve full time faculty from all divisions in Freshman instruction. These basic, 100-level seminars build the necessary analytical and writing skills needed to succeed in higher-level courses, while easing integration into college life by creating a sense of community around a commonly-shared experience.
FIQWS courses carry 6 credits (3 for the “topic” seminar and 3 for the “composition” seminar) and are taught collaboratively by two instructors. One grade is given for the 6 credit course through the consultation of both instructors.
Between the two seminars, the students should produce 20-25 pages (6,000-7,500 words) of graded writing in addition to "low stakes" and "scaffolded" assignments of various kinds. This writing ought to include a short research paper (7-10 pp), executed gradually in incremental assignments throughout the semester.
The course also requires that students be taught basic college skills: the importance of attendance, timely submission of work, and good study habits.
- A “Midterm Assessment” form for each student must be filled out by both instructors. It is discussed with each student during the weeks 5-7 of the semester, at a short meeting at which both instructors are present. You may cancel class to make time for these meetings.
- Students will attend 2 library instruction classes with their instructor present. One session is coordinated with the topic section and the other one with the composition section. Both are taught by library faculty.
FIQWSs are taught in collaboration by a topic and a composition instructor. It is essential that instructors present a clear and shared understanding to students of how the two sections work together as one course with one final grade. It is strongly recommended that instructors meet regularly to discuss their sections, student performance, and upcoming assignments.
The topic instructor has primary responsibility for designing the topic (although both instructors should collaborate in designing the syllabus - or syllabi, if paired syllabi linking the two parts of the course are used - and all major writing assignments). The topic instructor should bear in mind that students will be doing a large amount of in-class and take-home writing assigned by the composition instructor in addition to any short assignments given in the topic section. The topic instructor should thus:
- Teach the class topic through a combination of lecture and seminar-style discussions of assigned readings;
- Dedicate class time to building critical thinking, communication, and participation skills through small-group and class discussions;
- Develop and assess students’ communication skills through oral presentations, recitation of texts (in a FIQWS focusing on poetry, for example), performance of scenes (in a FIQWS class focusing on theater, for example), etc.;
- Guide students in identifying a topic for a research paper and in situating their own writing within a larger network of public discourse. This guidance should include providing, in collaboration with the writing instructor, small clusters or “kits” of research material that students can use as possible sources for the research paper.
In addition to collaborating in syllabus-design and the design of major assignments, the composition instructor designs smaller in-class and take-home writing assignments to guide students through the “scaffolding” process of building a longer essay. Composition deals with mechanics and grammar, but also, and more importantly, with the larger structural and rhetorical issues of writing—invention, audience, diction and word choice, the appropriate use of source, the research process, paragraphing, etc.—including how to construct an argument. The composition instructor should thus:
Required assignments for FIQWS
- Use the class topic to teach students the skills necessary for college-level analytical essay writing and critical thinking. This should include reviewing material presented in the topic section, as well as working incrementally with students on their assigned papers to make sure they develop a working understanding of the writing and scaffolding process, from identifying a topic and formulating a thesis, to developing an outline, to strengthening and polishing their working through the revising of drafts, to preparing a bibliography;
- Provide additional writing practice through both in-class and take-home journal writing, peer-editing, response papers, free writing, or other assignments.
- The topic instructor designs the topic, syllabus and required assignments for the class.
- The composition instructor works together with the topic instructor to develop in-class and at-home writing assignments to support the graded papers and provide additional writing practice throughout the semester. The work of the writing class can include reworking of and preparation for papers assigned in the topic class.
Over the course of the semester, students taking a FIQWS must produce at least 20-25 pages (6,000-7,500 words) of graded writing to be broken down as follows:
- One research paper (7-10 pages)
It is expected that in writing a research paper students will accomplish the following in separate, manageable assignments leading up to a final paper:
- Choose and design their own paper topic relating to the topic of the course
- Research selected primary and/or secondary sources
- Learn to evaluate and employ these sources in developing their argument
- Complete and receive editorial comments on at least one draft prior to handing in the final copy (preferably, draft should be vetted by both instructors)
- Correctly cite sources using MLA (or other appropriate) style
- Prepare a bibliography using MLA (or other appropriate) style
- Analytical and/or research papers (short papers)
In addition to the research paper outlined above, it is up to the instructors to collaboratively assign another 10-12 pages of graded writing. These assigned papers should be distributed evenly over the course of the semester.
- In addition to the major assignments adding up to the 20-25 pages, there should be a range of "low stakes" and "scaffolded" writing assignments building up to final papers, in particular the research paper.
Guidelines for FIQWS Collaboration - Regarding the responsibility of the two instructors
While one instructor receives the official grade roster, final grades must be determined collaboratively (and course design should take this into consideration on various levels). It is expected that topic and composition instructors will work together throughout the semester.
- Before the semester begins, they should agree on the dates on which major assignments will be due (so that ample time might be given for preparation of drafts) and discuss the kinds of additional writing exercises would best serve the needs of the course. the instructors also need to collaborate in the preparation of a joint syllabus or linked syllabi.
- They should be in touch on a weekly basis throughout the semester to review on the progress of individual students as well as of the class as a whole, and discuss any changes to reading or writing assignments, etc.
- Instructors should communicate prior to the midterm conferences to discuss each student’s performance and fill out the online Midterm Evaluation Forms that will be printed out and given to students.
- Instructors should also communicate once at the end of the semester to discuss final grades
A note on “level”
Please bear in mind that your students will be first-semester freshmen. Although the material you teach should be college-level, you should in no way assume prior knowledge of the subject. Students should feel challenged to think about ideas they probably did not encounter in high school, and to write in ways they might not have done in high school. They should not feel overwhelmed by overly specific, technical or advanced concepts, or by excessive assignments. Making sure that students complete limited assignments that are understood and mastered is preferable to assigning extensive work that might overwhelm and alienate a student who is just beginning college life.